Joseph, Prince of Egypt

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Genesis 41-44
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 12

Joseph, Prince of Egypt

(Genesis 41-44)

Copr. 2022, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Do you know people who have trouble handling success? When they reach the top they decide to “settle scores” with those who have harmed them on the way up. This week we continue our study of Joseph. He is a man who would reasonably have asked God, “What is going on? I’m faithful and my life keeps getting worse!” Let’s dive back into this Bible story and see what we can learn about trusting God and handling success!

  1. Success
    1. We left off last week with Joseph interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and proposing a practical solution to the coming seven years of abundance and seven years of famine. Read Genesis 41:37-39. Recall that Joseph gave God credit for interpreting the dream (Genesis 41:16), and specifically denied that he was responsible. What is the result? (Pharaoh links Joseph’s discernment and wisdom to “the Spirit of God.”)
      1. How important to you think this linkage is to Pharaoh’s confidence in Joseph? (I believe it is critical. If a mere man were advising Pharaoh, then his advice would reflect human weakness. But, if the advice comes from a god, then it is high-level advice.)
      2. The Egyptians had many gods. I understand that they considered Pharaoh to be the connection between the gods and men. In this sense, Joseph was fulfilling that same role. Should Joseph have explained that his God was the only true God?
      3. Look back at Pharaoh’s question in Genesis 41:38. What would Pharaoh’s response be? (He would think that he was the only other man like that.)
    2. Read Genesis 41:40-41 and Genesis 41:42-45. Is Joseph being compromised? Should Joseph have “dared to be a Daniel” and said, “No bowing down to me,” and “No, I’m not marrying the daughter of the priest of a pagan god?” (Recall that the Holy Spirit is acting through Joseph. I think we tend to ask questions like these when we lose sight of the power of the Holy Spirit.)
    3. Read Genesis 41:47-49. Is God honoring Joseph? What about saving all of the pagan Egyptians?
    4. Read Genesis 41:50-52. What attitude does this reveal? (Joseph has not truly forgotten the hard times, but he gives God credit for getting past them (“God has made me forget”).
    5. Read Genesis 41:54-56. Look at this from a political point of view. Joseph has levied a 20% tax on grain during the good years (Genesis 41:34) and now is selling back to the Egyptians (Genesis 41:56) what they previously paid in taxes. This looks like a massive transfer of wealth from the hungry (Genesis 41:55) to the government. Is that God’s plan?
    6. Read Genesis 41:57. Who else is enriching the Egyptian government?
  2. The Early Dream Fulfilled
    1. Read Genesis 42:1-4. Why does God allow famine not only in the land of Canaan, but among His followers? (This is a world-wide famine. Genesis 41:57.)
    2. Read Genesis 42:6-7. Why do you think Joseph treated his brothers roughly?
    3. Read Genesis 42:8-9. Why make an accusation that Joseph knows is false? (I think Joseph’s goal is to get the brothers to explain their family situation in a way that will not make them suspect his identity.)
    4. In Genesis 42:10-13 the brothers explain their family situation. Read Genesis 42:15-17. What do you think would happen to the brothers if the one released and Benjamin (the youngest brother) did not return? (The penalty for spying is, according to Genesis 42:20, death.)
      1. What is the mood of the brothers during the three days in jail?
    5. Read Genesis 42:18-20. Joseph has changed his mind, why? Is it simply because he was surprised to see his brothers and had not carefully considered what he should do? (Verse 18 refers to the true God. I think Joseph prayed about this and decided that his first plan did little to bring food to his family, and presented the maximum chance that he would have to face executing his brothers - although I’m doubtful that it would have ever come to that.)
      1. We say bad things about Esau. In connection with Genesis 32-33 we discussed that Jacob feared he might be killed for his bad behavior when he was reunited with his brother Esau. Just the opposite happens. Esau rejoices in seeing his brother so much so that he cries. Why is Joseph not up to the standard set by Esau?
    6. Read Genesis 42:21-22. Why would the brothers link this unjust charge of spying to their treatment of Joseph? Why not link it to the murder of Hamor and Shechem in the Dinah controversy (see Genesis 34)? (I think the Holy Spirit causes them to make this connection.)
      1. Is this kind of payback the way that God works? Is it the way that Satan works?
        1. Recall that God predicted in Joseph’s dream this encounter. Is Joseph going beyond God’s plan?
        2. Is the coming 400 year slavery in Egypt payback for selling Joseph into slavery?
    7. Read Genesis 42:23-24. Now we see Joseph crying. Why choose Simeon? (We know he was a murderer (Genesis 34:25) and had a reputation for violence (Genesis 49:5). Likely, this is retaliation for his role harming Joseph.)
    8. Read Genesis 42:25-27. Recall that the brothers claimed they were honest men? What is Joseph’s motive for returning their money?
    9. In the rest of Genesis 42 the brothers recount to their father what has happened, and how they must return with Benjamin. Read Genesis 42:36-38. What does Jacob decide about taking Benjamin to Egypt?
      1. When Jacob says that “Simeon is no more,” what is he talking about? Simeon is merely in jail awaiting their return. (Jacob understands that if the brothers do not return, Simeon will be executed as a spy. Jacob is willing to have that happen to save Benjamin.)
  1. The Salvation
    1. Read Genesis 43:8. What argument does Judah make to return to Egypt for food? (They will all die of starvation if they do not go.)
      1. Notice that Benjamin is called “the boy.” How old do you think he is? (Commentators believe that Benjamin was at least thirty years-old and Genesis 46:21 tells us that he had ten sons.)
    2. Read Genesis 43:11-14. What is Jacob’s (Israel’s) attitude at this point?
    3. When the brothers return Joseph arranges a dinner for them. They fear the worst, and plead their case to Joseph’s steward. Read Genesis 43:23 for his response. How does the steward explain the money in their sacks? (He says it is a miracle from the true God.)
      1. Is that true? (No. Genesis 42:25 tells us that Joseph arranged this.)
      2. Why do you think the steward said this? He is likely the one who put the money in their bags of food so he would know the truth.
    4. Read Genesis 43:32-34. How do the brothers explain their seating positions at dinner? (The steward has introduced the idea that God is present in their relationship with Joseph.)
    5. The brothers leave with their food purchases. But Joseph tells his steward to again return their money, and also put Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s bag. Then Joseph sends his steward after them to accuse them of theft. Read Genesis 44:12-15. How does Joseph’s comment about divination play into the picture the steward previously suggested? (This is not divination, Joseph is doing this, but he believes that he is carrying out God’s will. Part of which is to see whether his brothers have reformed.)
    6. Read Genesis 44:16-17. What is Joseph’s test? (To see if they will treat Benjamin like they treated him. Will they sacrifice Benjamin?)
    7. Judah and the brothers refuse this proposal, and Judah offers to take the place of Benjamin as a servant. Read Genesis 45:1-3 for Joseph’s response. Have the brothers passed Joseph’s test to see if they have reformed?
      1. What do the brothers fear?
    8. Read Genesis 45:5-8. How does Joseph explain the terrible events in his life? (He attributes it to God’s master plan to save His people.)
    9. Friend, is Joseph like Jesus? Does Joseph have a godly attitude about his troubles and his success? Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help you face trouble and success in a godly way?
  2. Next week: Israel in Egypt.